What is andropause?

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on September 21, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


If you’ve come across the term “andropause,” the following question may have popped into your head: what is andropause?

That’s the question we’ll tackle here—plus discuss some related topics, including why men experience low testosterone (androgen deficiency), symptoms associated with “andropause,” tips that may help with managing symptoms, taking a testosterone level test, and more—so read on.

What is andropause?

In males, androgen is made in the testes and adrenal glands. It’s a group of male sex hormones that helps with the development and growth of the male reproductive system (such as the penis, testes, prostate, and sperm) and influence a range of features in males, including facial hair, muscle mass, and sex drive.

The major androgen in both men and women is testosterone. In males, a gradual testosterone decline is normal with age, though an unusually low testosterone level may signal an underlying issue and result in certain symptoms. This age-related decline in testosterone—and the symptoms that accompany it in some men when testosterone levels are too low—led some researchers to dub the term “andropause.” You may also hear it referred to as androgen decline in the aging male or late-onset hypogonadism.

Note, however, that andropause is not a clinical diagnosis, whereas late-onset hypogonadism is—and many men do not experience symptoms related to the declining testosterone levels associated with age (unlike menopause in women, which is very often accompanied by symptoms of some kind).

Andropause symptoms

When testosterone production is too low among middle-aged and elderly men, symptoms can develop, including:

  • Erectile dysfunction, or an inability to have or sustain an erection
  • Decreased libido and infertility
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Breast discomfort or swelling
  • Sleep disturbance or insomnia
  • Increased body fat
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Decreased bone density
  • Decreased motivation and confidence
  • Mild unexplained anemia
  • Low bone mineral density or low trauma fracture
  • Height loss
  • Hot flashes or sweats

Keep in mind that other issues can contribute to many of these symptoms, so having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily point to a testosterone-related issue.

Why men experience low testosterone

Now that we’ve covered what is andropause, let’s discuss why some men experience testosterone deficiency while others do not.

It’s typical for men’s testosterone levels to decline with age. This can be due to changes in testicular function (in men, testosterone is frequently produced by the testes) or dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary glands. After age 40, levels typically decrease by roughly 1% each year (this rate can be affected by obesity, diabetes, and medication).

Most older men still have testosterone levels that are in the normal range for their age. However, roughly 10-25% of men will have low levels, which often go hand-in-hand with the symptoms described above. If older men do experience symptoms of low testosterone, a healthcare professional may recommend further testing.

Testing for low testosterone

Testosterone testing

Having a blood test is often among the first steps in diagnosing low testosterone. If results show a low testosterone level, an additional test may be completed to confirm results. The acceptable range of testosterone levels is generally between 250-1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) for total testosterone.


Check your testosterone from the convenience of home with the Everlywell at-home Testosterone Test.


Pituitary gland testing

After low testosterone is confirmed, a healthcare provider may do further testing of the pituitary gland to determine if this gland is functioning correctly. Your pituitary gland is a part of your endocrine system, which contains the glands that produce and regulate many key hormones.

Are there treatment options for low testosterone?

Treatment options for low testosterone are available and may include testosterone replacement therapy.

This type of therapy may help relieve symptoms, including:

  • Increasing sex drive
  • Restoring erectile function
  • Improving mood
  • Increasing bone density
  • Maintaining hair growth
  • Increasing muscle mass

However, these options may come with some side effects that may impact your health, so it’s essential to discuss them with your healthcare professional before starting treatment.

Lifestyle changes to help with low testosterone symptoms

If you have low testosterone, certain lifestyle changes—described below—may help with symptom management.

Stress management

It’s a great idea to practice stress management techniques, whether it’s through meditation, journaling, or some other approach. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, and work on practicing relaxation techniques, like deep breathing.

Eating a well-balanced diet

A wholesome diet and eating well is an important lifestyle change to implement at all stages of life. If you’re feeling depressed or not sleeping well, your diet may be a relevant factor. Make sure to drink enough water, regularly indulge in a variety of fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid processed foods and sugars.

Exercise

Exercise doesn’t have to be about running a marathon; a 10-15 minute walk after mealtime can work wonders, as can a yoga or swimming class that’s easy on the joints and beneficial to the mind.

Get socially active

Work on cultivating community with your family and friends. Cook meals together. Join a book club or a language class. Do things to keep yourself engaged rather than withdrawn. All of these seemingly small lifestyle changes can make a significant impact on your overall well-being.

Everlywell Testosterone Test

Whether you’re experiencing symptoms of low T or are just curious about your levels, testing your testosterone can be an easy way to learn where you stand with this key hormone. Our at-home testosterone test lets you measure your level of free testosterone, which is the biologically active form of testosterone not bound to proteins (as opposed to total testosterone, which is bound to proteins).

Simply order the kit and register it online with its unique code, then collect a saliva sample using the collection tube included with the kit. Next, you ship your sample to the lab for analysis (with the prepaid shipping label that’s included, as well), then view your easy-to-understand results on our secure, online platform.


Low testosterone symptoms


References

1. Singh P. Andropause: Current concepts. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2013;17(Suppl 3):S621-S629. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.123552

2. Male menopause: Myth or reality?. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed September 21, 2020.

3. Gould DC, Petty R. The male menopause: does it exist? West J Med. 2000;173(2):76-78. doi:10.1136/ewjm.173.2.76

4. Testosterone therapy: Potential benefits and risks as you age. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed September 21, 2020.

5. Is there any safe way to naturally boost a man's testosterone level?. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed September 21, 2020.

6. Is Male Menopause Real? Scripps Health. URL. Accessed September 21, 2020.

7. Andropause: Age-Related Hormone Changes in Men. Winchester Hospital. URL. Accessed September 21, 2020.

8. Hormone Replacement Therapy. The National Health Service. URL. Accessed September 21, 2020.

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